Azraq Castle is one of the historic desert castles. It is located in the village of North Azraq. Because of its strategic location close to the borders of several countries and near a water supply, the site has been occupied by many different civilizations, including the Umayyads, Ayyubids and Ottomans. It was made famous during World War I, when T. E. Lawrence, better known as Lawrence of Arabia, used the castle as his military base during the Arab Revolt against the Turks.
The castle is solidly constructed out of black basalt. Entrance is through an impressive door made of a massive slab of basalt. Carved indentations on the floor were used by former gatekeepers to play a board game with pebbles to pass the time. The second level includes Lawrence’s room, directly above the southern entrance. There is a small mosque in the middle of the courtyard, an old well near the east wall, a prison in the northeast corner and a variety of storerooms and stables opposite the entrance.
EXPERIENCE LOCAL CULTURE
The People of Azraq:
The Azraq area has a rich cultural history due to its strategic location and water resources. It was used as a station for pilgrims traveling to Mecca and Medina, as well as a military site for many armies. Today there are two villages near the Reserve. Interestingly, both villages were initially established by people fleeing religious persecution in their homelands.
North Azraq is inhabited predominantly by Druze people, while south Azraq is inhabited by Chechens.
Both groups of villagers traditionally depended on the wetlands, which provided them with water for farming and grazing areas for their buffalo and horses. As the wetlands dried up, the villagers moved to service-based occupations, such as providing restaurants and shops along the Saudi Arabia-Iraq highway. Salt extraction from Qa’a Al-Azraq continues to provide jobs for several village families.